MASTIC BEACH — Contrary to what many people think, when a student leaves his or her classes for the day, the learning process does not stop.
Just ask the Riverhead High School boys tennis team. The Blue Waves’ season-opening match at William Floyd High School on Friday was a learning experience in so many ways.
On a cold and blustery March afternoon, the Blue Waves dropped their Suffolk County League VIII match to the Colonials, 6-1.
“Brutal weather,” Riverhead Coach Bob Lum said. “A little cold for tennis. But everyone hung in there, persevered, which was good. The wind is a factor. It’s as windy for them as it is for us.”
No one used the strong and unpredictable wind as an excuse, but it certainly did make for some unique adjustments and some reminders from Lum.
“You can coach them, give them some advice, shorten their strokes, shorten their backswing, finish their shots,” he said. “Once it gets windy out there and they’re not used to it, it takes its toll.”
For freshmen Brian Chinchilla and Tim Saletel, participating in a competitive tennis match was a completely new experience. Their introduction to the sport came several weeks ago when they tried out for the team. Their debut as a second doubles team was a 6-0, 6-0 defeat to Kings Park’s Nick Parris and Dylan Ernst.
“I was a little nervous at first,” Saletel said. “The key thing the coach told us was to relax, have fun, just go out there and play your best. If you lose, you lose. If you win, you win. Just give it all you got.”
Saletel said he “learned that competition is tough. There are other schools out there that are really good. I think the team we played together did really good. But that’s what you get for being one of the top two. We were the second doubles team. You get better competition. I just learned that I’ve got to step it up and maybe just improve for the next game.”
“I learned that I still have a lot to learn and that I could get better if I actually try,” he said. “I can accomplish many things, I guess, if I work on it.”
The Blue Waves’ lone winner was senior Efe Erol, who bested Dhruv Patel, 8-6. 6-1.
“Things went great for me today,” Erol said. “At first I thought I would go out there and play hard. Then I went on a winning streak. Then I got a little nervous because I [thought I] can’t lose this now.”
In fact, he learned a thing or two about himself.
“It was really important to relax,” he said. “Relaxing was something I could never be because I was stressed out. I felt in my mind I was relaxed. … I stayed cool the whole time.”
Seth Conrad, the sophomore first singles player, was not as fortunate, losing to Kevin Ferguson, 6-3, 6-0.
“I do know what I could have done better,” Conrad said.
“Over time it comes to me. But when you play a game with other people, you see them do things. You have to figure out how to do them and how to react to them. It helps you figure out how you need to play, how you need to practice.”
Geoff Wells, a junior playing second singles, dropped a 6-0, 6-0 decision to Sebastian Alvarez.
Lum said he was “a little disappointed on the first and second singles. I thought they could do better. It was the first match, so we’ll see.”
The third singles player, junior John Rios, battled Ryan Kelly to three sets, but lost, 6-3, 2-6, 4-6.
The No. 1 doubles team of Andrew Plattner and Parker Ellis lost to Cory Paladino and Brandon Jiang, 6-3, 6-0, while the third doubles duo of Christian Aguire and Joe Inzalaco were downed by Tyler Fichtnero and Lenny Latendresse, 6-1, 6-0.
“The doubles teams have to get more consistent,” Lum said. “They still have to work together more.
“I was encouraged by the first doubles. They were coming to the net a lot. If they lost a point, it was at the net. That’s where I want them to lose points.”